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Service Included
Cover of Service Included
Service Included
Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter
Borrow Borrow
Kitchen Confidential meets Sex and the City in this delicious, behind-the-scenes memoir from the first female captain at one of New York City's most prestigious restaurants

While Phoebe Damrosch was figuring out what to do with her life, she supported herself by working as a waiter. Before long she was a captain at the New York City four-star restaurant Per Se, the culinary creation of master chef Thomas Keller.

Service Included is the story of her experiences there: her obsession with food, her love affair with a sommelier, and her observations of the highly competitive and frenetic world of fine dining.

She also provides the following dining tips:

  • Please do not ask your waiter what else he or she does.
  • Please do not steal your waiter's pen.
  • Please do not say you're allergic when you don't like something.
  • Please do not send something back after eating most of it.
  • Please do not make faces or gagging noises when hearing the specials—someone else at the table might like to order one of them.

After reading this book, diners will never sit down at a restaurant table the same way again.

Kitchen Confidential meets Sex and the City in this delicious, behind-the-scenes memoir from the first female captain at one of New York City's most prestigious restaurants

While Phoebe Damrosch was figuring out what to do with her life, she supported herself by working as a waiter. Before long she was a captain at the New York City four-star restaurant Per Se, the culinary creation of master chef Thomas Keller.

Service Included is the story of her experiences there: her obsession with food, her love affair with a sommelier, and her observations of the highly competitive and frenetic world of fine dining.

She also provides the following dining tips:

  • Please do not ask your waiter what else he or she does.
  • Please do not steal your waiter's pen.
  • Please do not say you're allergic when you don't like something.
  • Please do not send something back after eating most of it.
  • Please do not make faces or gagging noises when hearing the specials—someone else at the table might like to order one of them.

After reading this book, diners will never sit down at a restaurant table the same way again.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    The art of the day job

    Eventually I had to accept that I wasn't working in restaurants to support my art like most of my coworkers; I was posing as an artist to justify my work as a waiter. The small café where I worked in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, employed artists as if there were quotas to be met: a drummer, a filmmaker, an actor, a dancer, a photographer, a designer, and myself—who at that point fancied herself a writer. Every so often someone would go on tour, decide to move back to some small town in some small state, or simply leave out of frustration with what he or she wasn't getting to do. It's a dangerous combination, this dichotomy of artist/waiter, one that often leads to listless service and half-finished Margaritas forgotten behind the computer.

    I lived in a studio apartment upstairs from my high school sweetheart in Williamsburg (recently rated the hippest neighborhood in America—how scientific a study that was, I hardly know). We had broken up three years before and were now pretending to be friends, sharing a computer and sweaters, buying groceries, building bookshelves, and sabotaging each other's love life. That we spent most of our time together in the kitchen was no surprise; food had always been our bond. Between our early experimentations and our reunion years later, we had grown confident in our techniques and ambitious in our undertakings, mastering emulsifications and reductions, the art of kneading, and the importance of letting things rest. He played the chef, and I the visionary, reading recipes out loud from the floor, my back against the refrigerator door.

    When I found myself without a job, my ex-love suggested that I interview at the café where he worked. I would shoot for a busboy position since I had no experience in the business. When the manager asked if I knew how to make a cappuccino, I said in all seriousness that I didn't, but that I drank a lot of them. I have no idea why she hired me.

    The café modeled itself after a funny amalgamation of cultures, from its curved mosaic ceiling to the eclectic cuisine, which I called Middleterranean: scrambled eggs with coriander and ginger, lamb shank with currants and pine nuts, salmon on Israeli couscous. Having just escaped my last job on Fifth Avenue with my sanity intact (I'll get to that), I pierced my nose, dyed my new pixie cut a dramatic platinum blond, and took to keeping my corkscrew, or wine key, tucked into knee-high boots. The café was perhaps best known for brunch, when the line ran out the door and we mastered the art of sprinting while balancing three or four coffee cups. Bed-headed hipsters make challenging brunch guests, barely able to utter their Bloody Mary order, let alone abide a wait for their eggs Barbarosa with crawfish and chorizo. Margaritas were essential to survival.

    I was the only busboy not named Mohammed. Here, as in many restaurants around the city, any deviation from the distinct class/race hierarchy makes everyone uneasy. In most New York restaurants, the chef is Caucasian, the waiters are starving artists, the busboys are from Bangladesh, and the kitchen workers and dishwashers are from Latin America. I honestly think I was promoted so quickly from busboy to waiter because the chef and the waiters felt uncomfortable asking me to mop up their spills, take out the trash, and clean the windows. I certainly wasn't promoted for my skill or knowledge. When I came to the kitchen to pick up a salad, the cooks took a moment longer to anchor the teetering greens between beet support beams. They knew that when I picked up a bowl of soup the crostini, which was supposed to remain on the rim of the bowl, would be launched like a life raft into turbulent waves of soup....

About the Author-
  • Phoebe Damrosch is a graduate of Barnard College at Columbia University and holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. She lives in New York City and no longer waits on tables.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 11, 2007
    A charming debut by a former waiter at the New York City restaurant Per Se slips in some high-end tricks of the trade. Vermont-bred foodie Damrosch was a few years out of Barnard College when she landed a job at chef Thomas Keller’s Per Se. Fast-talking and prone to do her homework, in this case assiduously absorbing Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook
    , Damrosch starts as a backserver, and her training is intensive: attending food seminars, memorizing the acreage of Central Park and learning how not to interrupt dining couples holding hands. In a few months, she’s elevated to captain (a rare job for a woman), which entails navigating guests through the elaborate menus and essentially learning the subtleties of putting the guest at ease. Anticipating desire becomes Damrosch’s role, as well as making sure New York Times
    food critic Frank Bruni has the best meal of his life. (Indeed, the place receives four stars.) She begins a romance with Andre the sommelier. Much of the latter half of this youthful, exuberant memoir is overtaken by their burgeoning affair, although the most delightful chapter, “I Can Hear You,” is full of vignettes of Damrosch’s real-life waiting, i.e., the delivery of the Fabergé egg as a marriage proposal, and the parade of celebrities she meets along the way.

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    HarperCollins
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Phoebe Damrosch
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